Though it sometimes still surprises me, my son attends a private school. Politically I am not awfully comfortable with private schools for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the cost and the fact that I’ve already paid enough taxes to provide a number of state educations. I am also aware that the Merchant schools in Edinburgh used to teach their children to believe that they were better than other kids because they could afford a private education, which I find pretty disgusting.
Whatever, given our rural location and the class sizes in the local schools, we opted to send Nick to a little private school in a neighbouring town, and we don’t really have many regrets – he has been happy and has done well. On the other hand, we have met some people there that normally we would have gone some distance to avoid.
In other circumstances, I would never have come across the Stockdales, for example. Mr Stockdale and his brother inherited a very successful business from their father, and – despite what you might think about the general state of the economy at present – they are rolling in money – can’t find enough ways to spend it.
Mrs S delivers her kids to school in her choice of some half-dozen or so SUVs they have – all Mercs and Lexuses and similar, with vanity plates – showing more jewellery than the average coronation. Mr S collects golf equipment and cars. Cars and more cars. He has (or had, I can’t keep track – in any case, keeping track might suggest that I am interested…) a Bentley and a couple of Ferraris, and he has recently purchased a Lamborghini (pictured), which retails in this part of the world at a cool £265,000. The reason I know about this is because young Stockdale has been bragging about it to his classmates. Young Stockdale brags about his parents’ wealth a great deal, apparently – this is uncomfortable. First of all, we have to handle the problem of explaining to our lad why we don’t have that kind of purchasing power. Then there is the matter of Young Stockdale himself – he spent the last couple of years telling his chums that they had better be careful with the school library books, since his dad had donated them. Now Young S is school captain, which – for a while – he interpreted as a licence to bully the rest of the kids and shout at them. That seems to have calmed down a bit now, so I guess that someone on the school staff managed to summon the tact to address the matter without compromising the donations.
We should all be grateful, I can see that. I also see that I have to be very careful that I do not appear envious, and – dammit – that I am sure in my heart that I am not actually envious. We have to take the opportunity to explain to Nick that, in a world where the economy is broken – largely as a result of greed – and where the price of a Lamborghini would feed a Sudanese village for years, it is maybe not such a glamorous thing to throw money around in this way. We laugh about the Stockdales’ latest exploits. Privately, I look forward to Young Stockdale moving on to secondary school after the summer, where he will become a rather smaller fish and will, with luck, get kicked into shape. After the summer I shall probably never hear about his family again – in an odd way, I shall miss them a little. Like a weekly cartoon strip.